The Games are over and the athletes and ...
VANCOUVER - The Swedish wheelchair curling team at the 2010 Paralympics has been rocked with news the player who was to throw their final rocks, Glenn Ikonen, has been hit with a two-year suspension by the International Paralympic Committee for the use of an illegal drug.
The two-year ban is subject to review, but Ikonen has been withdrawn from the team for the balance of the 2010 Games.
The news came just hours before the Swedish team was due to take on Italy Friday at the Hillcrest venue in a tie-breaker game to decide the fourth and final playoff spot.
The drug in question, which is on the IPC banned list, is the beta blocker metoprolol manufactured by Sandoz used to control high blood pressure.
Ikonen was subject to a random drug test test two days ago and was just informed of the result and the subsequent ban at lunch time Friday.
Without Ikonen in the lineup, Jalle Jungnell, the team's skip, resumed throwing the final stones. Ikonen, the team's normal third, had taken over the last-rock duties when the Swedes got off to an 0-3 start to the round robin. To fill out their team for the game against Italy, alternate Patrik Kallin drew into the lineup.
“Of course I'm terribly sad. I'm in shock,” said Ikonen. “I wasn't trying to hide anything.”
The 54-year-old Ikonen said he has been on medication for high blood pressure for years. The beta blocker was prescribed for him by his doctor back home in Sweden.
“Before I left Sweden I told my doctor I didn't want to take anything that would not be approved. Of course I'm disappointed that he didn't know. I trusted my doctor. I would never take anything that I thought was illegal for sports.”
Hans Safstrom, the Chef de Mission for the Swedish team said he totally believes Ikonen's explanation that the incident was a misunderstanding on the part of the athlete.
Swedish team doctor Magnus Sunblad said, unlike some other sports such as biathlon, there is no advantage in curling to using a drug like a beta blocker, which helps to slow down the pumping rate of the heart.
Despite missing Ikonen, Sweden was able to defeat Italy 6-5 and will now face Canada this morning in the playoff semifinals. The other semi will pitt the U.S. against Korea.
In the tie-breaker the Swedes spotted Italy three in the first end but rallied to take the victory with a steal of two in the final end.
“Of course we were totally shocked and sorry for Glenn who played so well for us in the round robin,” said Jungnell “He felt he had done everything right about the medication. But Patrik [who shot 75 per cent] came in an did a good job for us. He plays for us in our normal club games back home. We knew he was a good player.”